Thursday, August 31, 2006

An American know-nothing talks about Cuba

Russ Neal is a yankee that doesn't know much about Cuba. Probably he hasn't been to Cuba once, or spoken to any Cuban inside the island. He works for a very influential newspaper, one that is published on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays. Watch out New York Times!

He begins his tirade by saying in the first sentence of his article that "Now is the time for the United States to bring down the communist regime in Cuba."

I wonder if he intends to lead the U.S. Marines in a liberating incursion to Cuba, after they finish their task of bringing "democracy" and "stability" to Iraq.

Humm! Will he get a thank you letter accompanied by a check from CANF, the Cuban Liberty Council or the CIA?

American People Misunderstand Cuba

Letter to the Editor
By: Ramon Perez
Clermont, Florida

August 31, 2006

For many of us, and the media, Cuba has been the talk these past few weeks. Sadly, the news is not about Cuba per se, but about one Cuban in particular, Fidel Castro. We have been taught -- and it is embedded in our little barains -- to despise most everything Cuban; except that which emanates from southern Florida. It is mind boggling that such unique group of individuals are able to dictate to the federal government what we, as a nation, ought to be doing in Cuba and Latin America, too.

Reading the editorial opinions of most newspapers, we would think our governmet would heed to the advice given by the majority, and make some much needed changes in foreign policy -- in this case, Cuba. Rather, our goverment continues to heed the advice of a few Cuban ex-patriots -- specifically, the first wave of Cuban migrants arriving with the fall of Batista. The thinking of these individuals is well know, and democracy has never been part of their politico-economical lifestyle.

Our very own Declaration of Independence begins by saying "When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another...." I think it is time for the federal government to dissolve its allegiance with this group of Cuban migrants and "declare the caused which impel them to the separation." The Cuban embargo is hurting the Cuban people. If there are any beneficiaries of it, they all reside outside Cuba. To continue advocating a failed policy is like admiting we lack the intellect to come up with something different, something innovative.

Advocating a forced transition to change Cuba's economical and political system will never be a welcomed policy for Cubans nor world opinion; like in Iraq, it will fail. Rather we should be making offers of economic and humanitarian support while providing assurances that the United States will respect the sovereingty of its neighbors.

It is said that when overseas, we are ambassadors of our country, So, why aren't we allowed the the free excercise of our right to travel, to assemble? Let us be the ones opening doors of opportunity, of communication, of friendship, of understanding with the Cuban people, It is obvious that our government is not capable of promoting the principles that make our country great.

Our economic and political (even military) interests are better served through a policy of engament and cooperation. Otherwise, those who are better positioned to act first shall receive the better reward. Historically, America chose money over righteousness. It is time we do what is right. In the long end we'll come ahead.

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JG: Bravo Ramon! I agree 100%.

Cuba's governance appears seamless from one Castro to another

TheState.com, South Carolina

Posted on Wed, Aug. 30, 2006

By Nancy San Martin

McClatchy Newspapers

(MCT)

MIAMI - One month to the day after Fidel Castro ceded power to his younger brother, Raul, Cuba appears to be much like a plane on autopilot with no final destination.

There has been no visible indication of political change on the communist-ruled island; no visible increase in rule by Raul; no apparent change in the machinery of government. There have been no stepped-up challenges by dissidents or increases in the number of rafters fleeing by sea.

Neither has there been any explanation at all for what caused the man who ruled Cuba for 47 years to undergo intestinal surgery on July 31 and surrender his monopoly on power for the first time ever.

Taken together, these elements have left some Cuba watchers wondering about what is really going on in the island of 11 million people just 90 miles off Key West.

When Castro handed over the reins to Raul, he stage-managed a scene that caught most Cuba experts off-guard: a succession from Fidel to Raul without Fidel's death.

Even now, some believe, the 80-year-old Fidel may well be continuing to plot the island's future course, leaving little leeway for his 75-year-old brother.

"I don't think Raul would want to make a lot of change with Fidel still in the picture," said Mark Falcoff, author of Cuba, The Morning After. "I think he's scared to death of his brother."

"He has to be careful on how far he can push, not only because of Fidel, but because of the hard-line Fidelistas, who would accuse him of betrayal," said Edward Gonzalez, a Cuba expert at the California-based RAND Corporation.

Illustrating the apparent calm, Miami radio commentator Francisco Aruca, a steadfast critic of U.S. sanctions on Cuba, had been starting his daily program with the words "Today marks XX days, and nothing has happened."

"Contrary to what people want to acknowledge, the great majority of people in Cuba don't want the shaking up of society," said Aruca, a frequent traveler to the island. "I do believe that they want changes, but no upheaval or violence."

Even dissidents on the island have been reluctant to push too hard for change, perhaps because some want to retain a measure of stability, perhaps because some fear a government crackdown.

Wayne Smith, a former head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana and frequent critic of U.S. policy on Cuba, said that dissidents have acted responsibly and that the population as a whole has accepted the transfer of power "with great calm and maturity."

"It had always been planned that Raul Castro would step in and he did," Smith said in a telephone interview from Washington. "Only people in Miami were expecting some kind of collapse."

Castro shocked the world on a Monday night a month ago when his secretary, Carlos Valenciaga, read a letter on Cuban television announcing the power shift due to a "sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding" that required "complicated surgery."

The public has since seen him only twice, first in a series of Cuban newspaper photos showing Castro sitting up, then in a video taken during a bedside visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and broadcast on his 80th birthday, Aug. 13.

Raul, too, has kept a low profile, showing up only to meet Chavez at the airport, in the visit video and later in a photo that accompanied a lengthy interview he granted to the Granma daily.

Raul said in the interview that he was open to dialogue with the United States, and Washington later made somewhat similar comments. Both comments included harsh caveats that would make it difficult to open talks, but they nevertheless raised eyebrows among Cuba-watchers.

In the meantime, the Bush administration has shown no appetite for any aggressive effort to undermine the succession to Raul and promote a transition to democracy.

"The U.S. wants to avoid any kind of crisis or instability in Cuba," said Antonio Jorge, a professor of economics and international relations at Florida International University. "So I expect Washington (will) wait for the opportunity to establish some kind of . . . dialogue."

Roger Noriega, a former assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, said the administration's lack of more muscular insistence for democratic reforms is more likely "just a question of quiet diplomacy."

"The United States does not want to be perceived as trying to manage what is happening in Cuba," he said.

But Noriega expressed concern on the "lack of any obvious mobilization" by Cuba's small and traditionally tightly monitored dissident movement.

"That's what's going to propel change - when Cubans themselves take the initiative and claim their rights," Noriega said. "They need to step up."

In a sign that the elder Castro remains in charge, Raul reportedly has continued to work out of his office in the Ministry of Defense instead of moving into Fidel's presidential offices.

But Raul received a Syrian delegation earlier this week in preparation for a summit of Nonaligned Movement nations that Havana is scheduled to host next month - a move seen as a hint that Fidel will not be well enough to attend.

"That's rather poignant because Castro played a strong role in the summit in 1979" also hosted by Havana, Smith said. "But maybe it's better. It gets the world used to Raul Castro being in the presidency."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Top Cuban Leader Thinks Out Loud


Photo: AP / Jorge Rey

Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon gestures during a 2005 interview in Havana.

www.truthdig.com

Posted on Aug 29, 2006

By Tom Hayden

Veteran social activist Tom Hayden interviews Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon.

“Let’s try to imagine what Karl Marx would be doing today.”

It was Sunday, May 21st, and my host posing the question was Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly. It was Alarcon’s 69th birthday, and I was having difficulty understanding why he had pressed me to fly down for a visit. The purpose was nothing more than “two old guys talking,” according to his daughter Maggie, a thirty-something single mom and formidable interpreter of Cuba to many North Americans.

Looking back today, I don’t know whether or not Alarcon already knew that his longtime comrade Fidel was diagnosed as needing serious surgery. The question would become a “state secret,” at Castro’s wish. Alarcon is third in line to succeed Fidel after Raul Castro, although it is more likely Alarcon will blend into a collective transitional team.

The prospect of three days’ conversation with Ricardo Alarcon reflecting on his long revolutionary experience was too important to put off, and our interviews may be of greater value during the current rampant and reckless speculation over Fidel’s status. Few individuals alive have the range of Alarcon’s experience, from being a Havana student leader during the Cuban Revolution to Cuba’s United Nations ambassador (1965-78 and 1990-92) to foreign minister (1992-93) and National Assembly president since 1993. And so we sat at a seaside restaurant on his birthday with daughter Maggie and his advisor, Miguel Alvarez. A Venezuelan cargo ship passed just offshore.

“I think Marx would be asking what are we doing about all the millions today who are protesting for peace and justice,” said Alarcon in answer to his question. In a recent essay on “Marx After Marxism” he argued that Marxists should begin to see the world anew. Scoffing at neoconservatives who embrace the end of Marxism (and the end of history itself), Alarcon also emphasizes the need for “self-critical reflection on our side as well.” In effect, he is proposing a return to the original spirit of Marx before the 20th-century revolutions in his name. That original Marx organized an early transnational labor movement, with the central demand the eight-hour day, and wrote more theoretical works on 19th-century capitalism. According to Alarcon, that earlier Marx never meant a science-based, inevitable march to socialism based on some objective truth revealed through communist parties. That Marx was a practical revolutionary who himself famously declared “with all naturalness,” Alarcon points out, “I am not a Marxist.”

For Alarcon and the Cubans, history always has been contingent, subject to human will and unexpected developments, rather than an unfolding of the inevitable. After Cuba’s decades of dependency on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, which caused a degree of “subordination” to Soviet interests and “reinforced dogmatism,” Alarcon calls for active exploration of new trends in global capitalism and its oppositional movements. “Old dogmatists are incapable of appreciating new possibilities in the revolutionary movement,” he says.

All the talk of the United States becoming a sole superpower “falls to pieces with its bogging down in Iraq” and the derailment of its neo-liberal agenda for Latin America, Alarcon believes.

He identifies new obstacles facing capitalist growth. Every 25 years a population equivalent to the whole planet’s numbers in Marx’s time is born. Alarcon believes climate changes are irreversible, forests are being transformed into deserts, cities becoming uninhabitable and, as a result, an environmental challenge to capitalism has arisen which requires rethinking of Marxist political economy.

Alarcon revises the Marxist (and Leninist) conceptions of the 19th-century proletariat accordingly. Today there are growing numbers of those from different stations of life “who do not conform, are unsatisfied and rebel.” “For the first time, anti-capitalist malaise is manifested, simultaneously and everywhere, in advanced countries and those left behind, and is not limited to the proletariat and other exploited sectors.” And so “a diverse group, multicolored, in which there is no shortage of contradictions and paradoxes, grows in front of the dominant system.”

“It is not yet the rainbow that announces the end of the storm,” Alarcon says, warning that the diverse movements lack a common theory, are marked by spontaneity more often than organization, and need to develop further without either sectarian factionalism or becoming carried away.

He pauses, points an index finger for emphasis, and tells me “the most important task for the Latin American left” is to reelect President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil. Having met with leftists highly critical of fiscal moderation in power, Alarcon says that “notwithstanding his faults, if Lula is defeated, all of Latin America will be worse off.” This advice may not sit well with some radical advocates of Latin American revolution, but Alarcon takes a longer view. The recent nationalist electoral wave in Latin America—Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Chile, and a near-success in Mexico—inevitably brings dilemmas of governance to the forefront. But for Alarcon and Cuba, the overall changes in Latin America further a benign result, the full integration of Cuba into Latin America after decades of Cold War antagonisms. The permanent embargo by the United States makes the Cubans especially wary of any reversals in the continental process, as the defeat of Lula in the Oct. 1 election would represent.

Alarcon is pragmatic. He believes in the Cuban philosophy that “the duty of the revolutionary is to make the revolution,” that it must be a “heroic creation.” But he is aware, perhaps painfully, that revolutions cannot be “imprinted or copied” and that the “mandates” of mass movements like those that have elected Lula must be respected. “There is no alternative in Brazil. The guys who were mad at me for saying this went to meet with the landless movement representatives in Brazil, and they told them the same thing.”

Continuing at a dinner conversation, Alarcon opined that there should be “many forms of socialism,” depending on the needs of different countries and movements. Even the social-democratic parties, the historical rivals of the European communist parties, have an important role to play today, he said. “I hope they go through the same sort of introspection we have,” Alarcon said, referring to the tendency of the moderate socialist parties to cut social programs and “tail” after U.S. military and economic policies. “I would go further,” he said. “I don’t believe that capitalism cannot be reformed. The Great Society in your country is an example.”

Alarcon seems to be hinting at a role for revolutionaries in shaping a clear alternative to global neo-liberalism, one pushed in the streets by social movements and eventually resulting in a reform of capitalism like the New Deal on a global basis. Differing with some earlier views of Third World liberation, he sees a crucial role for activists and movements inside the North American colossus itself. Whereas earlier Marxists argued that unionized workers were a “privileged aristocracy” benefiting from the exploitation of the Third World, he says, “they are not any longer an aristocracy. If you go to North American workers and tell them they are an aristocracy, they will say you are crazy.” He points to the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization, in which labor called for “workers of the world to unite.” Marx, he says, would be “very interested in North American workers losing jobs to India” and what that means for workers’ movements.

His point is that “the Third World [now] penetrates the First, as dramatically illustrated by the current immigration controversies, rooted as they are in the historic patterns of capitalism needing cheap labor and resources and impoverished workers needing jobs. The Empire harvests its own internal opposition from the May Day 2006 immigrant marches inside the U.S. to the growth of Islamic rage inside the ghettos of east London or housing projects on the edge of Paris.

“To free the immigrants from their exploitation becomes essential to the emancipation of the workers in the developed countries,” those who are undermined by cheap immigrant labor. “One must help these two [groups of workers] to converge,” both to avoid an upsurge of racism and forge the basis of majority coalitions favoring reforms like a global living wage as the alternative to neo-liberalism’s notorious “race to the bottom.”

What is interesting about these words of a top Cuban leader, spoken freely and without reserve, is how far they diverge from the stereotypes of Cuba as a gray, thought-controlled Marxist dictatorship. Cuba is not a free society by measurements like multiple parties, but Cuba’s people, from Alarcon to the neighborhoods, are more conversant about trends in the United States than Americans are about Cuba. The ever-tightening U.S. embargo has boomeranged into a dangerous narrowing of American thinking, demonstrated in recent weeks by one hallucination after another. For example, Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican, was seen on television several weeks ago opining that Fidel was already dead. The streets of Miami filled with cheering Cuban exiles with no way to influence the island. According to the Los Angeles Times, the “most obvious interest [in Castro’s passing] comes from the gambling and tourist industries,” which were run off the island in 1960 [July 6, 2006]. One Florida-based developer’s master plan envisions “moving out all Cubans currently living in Havana” and replacing them with Miami exiles. The U.S. government is constantly updating its official “transition plan” to restore both free markets and the Miami exiles, with the emphasis on “disruption of an orderly succession strategy,” according to the Congressional Research Service [Aug. 23, 2005]. Eighty million U.S. dollars was recently budgeted to support Cuba’s opposition groups. “There are no plans to reach out,” declared White House spokesman Tony Snow after Fidel was hospitalized [Miami Herald, Aug. 2, 2006].

The notion of opening a dialogue with an accomplished diplomat like Ricardo Alarcon is completely out of the question. The Helms-Burton Act forbids any negotiation or loosening of the embargo if Raul Castro remains in power after Fidel.

Voices of realism like the head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, say “there’s no transition, and it’s not your country” to prepare a transition for [Reuters, May 23, 2006]. “It just drives the Bush people crazy,” says one former diplomat, referring to the fact that Cuba hasn’t collapsed in accord with neoconservative wishful thinking.

The fact is that Cubans will not rise up to welcome a mass influx of mostly white, revenge-oriented exiles from Miami backed by U.S. arms. The neocon analogy with the so-called “captive nations” of Eastern Europe doesn’t fit. Despite all the Cuban people’s legitimate criticisms of their government, it remains their government and they will not trade it for a U.S.-installed one. However they complain, Cubans have become more socialist in everyday life than many of them realize, as seen in their common acts of solidarity, their response to the Elian Gonzalez showdown, their educational achievements, their healthcare and their social safety nets. They hardly lack for world support and, in Venezuela, have found a solid source of oil and a continental opportunity for their legions of doctors and teachers. [“In the 60s, we only had a revolutionary ideology to export, but now we have valuable human capital,” one Cuban intellectual told me.]

A persistent interest of mine is why Cuba seems to be the only country in the world without street gangs. There certainly is a black market in contraband goods, but nothing like the pandilleras found everywhere else in the Americas. Part of the reason is an extraordinary network of 28,000 social workers who persistently act on the belief that “some morality remains in everyone,” as opposed to the “super-predator” theories popular among the neoconservatives.

It seems evident that the Cuban people want reform of their socialist state if and when Fidel passes on, and obviously not the “regime change” anticipated by the Miami Cubans and their Washington, D.C., patrons. They want a peaceful process controlled by Cubans, not by foreign powers. Who wouldn’t? The question is whether the United States government has an interest in normalizing relations with a better, more democratic, more open but still socialist Cuba. Sadly, it is doubtful, because such a Cuba would be a triumphant example to Latin America and the world. And so the United States, along with Miami’s Cubans—the armed and aggressive state within a state on American soil—hold out against the 182 nations of the world who condemn the embargo at the United Nations. In fact, our government is holding out against the desires of many of its own capitalists who hunger to invest in Cuba; even The Wall Street Journal has editorialized for repeal of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act [WSJ, Aug. 2, 2006]. A walk through Old Havana reveals some 20 new hotels and 65 restaurants, none with American investors.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Alarcon waits. He has negotiated with the United States before, in secret, during the Clinton era. He managed the Elian Gonzales crisis with aplomb. He is overseeing the case of the Cuban Five—men imprisoned in the U.S. for surveilling Miami-based exiles trying to bomb and sabotage Cuba. Alarcon is an experienced man of this world, one who could facilitate a normalization deal with the United States if ever one was on offer.

Instead, he sits for hours with the likes of me discussing the state of the revolution which he helped start over 50 years ago. He takes care of an invalid wife. He plays with his grandchild, Ricardito. He goes to dinner with a never-ending stream of visitors. He patiently answers reporters. He runs the domestic affairs of the National Assembly. He flies to international conferences.

He even finds time to read “The Port Huron Statement” line for line in English, with an updated foreword titled “The Way We Were” (in Spanish, he says, “como eramos”). He also reads a book of mine on religion and the environment, “The Lost Gospel of the Earth.” He did so, apparently, to prepare himself for a documentary interview for Cuba’s historical archives. When the morning of the interview arrives, he is perfectly ready to ask questions comparing Vietnam with Iraq, Chicago 1968 versus Seattle 1999, or issues of environmental spirituality, without stumbling once in English. When the interview is complete, our several days together have ended as well. “Sorry, but I have to go back to government business,” he apologizes, and with a hasta luego returns to his daily rounds. I miss him as he drives off. Maybe he knew of Fidel’s diagnosis that day, maybe not.

I flew back to Los Angeles that afternoon, carrying the strange feeling that America has embargoed itself from a Cuba that it refuses to recognize. In the weeks following Fidel’s surgery, according to friends who spent 10 days on the island, Cuba remains quiet, stable and alert. A transition definitely seems underway, but U.S. officials may be the last to know of it.

Tom Hayden is a member of The Nation’s editorial board and a visiting professor at the Claremont Colleges. He has visited Cuba three times, as well as many other Latin American countries. His recent books include “The Port Huron Statement,” “Conspiracy in the Streets,” “Street Wars” and “The Zapatista Reader.”







USA will never build new democracy in Cuba, even after Fidel Castro’s death

Pravda

It has been already a month since the moment when Cuba and the rest of the world found out about Fidel Castro’s severe illness. It is now possible to sum up the results brought by the news about the ailing Cuban leader.

Fidel Castro is recovering at the moment. However, no one is certain that the situation in Cuba will remain as it was before. Moreover, possible changes are not likely to revise the results of the Cuban revolution.

It is an open secret that the USA has been a staunch champion of dramatic changes on the Island of Freedom for several decades already. Recent interviews and statements made by politicians of the two countries in connection with Castro’s illness give a clear picture of Washington’s concerns regarding its revolutionary neighbours.

As it turns out, no matter what changes may happen in Cuba after Fidel Castro’s inevitable death, his people want to interact with the USA on equal terms. The White House and the State Department stand strongly against such a possibility. Many US top officials harbour an illusion that Cuba’s return under the wing of the US foreign policy will become a key point in the return of “good old times” when Latin America was considered the USA’s backyard.

Nevertheless, the Cuban political regime continues to rely on its unique demonstrative independence and opposition to the powerful neighbour. It seems that Venezuela could easily push Cuba and Fidel into the background to become the leader of the anti-American resistance in the Western hemisphere. On the other hand, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez derives his political strength and inspiration from the image of invincible Fidel. Chavez was the first politician pictured by the bed of the recovering Cuban leader.

It would also be incorrect to believe that economic difficulties have reached their highest point in Cuba. Many observers believe that the crisis caused with a dramatic change of priorities in the field of foreign politics has been overcome with the economic help of Venezuela and China.

Many think about the influential Cuban diaspora in Florida. Washington can use it to launch the creation of the “new democracy” in Cuba.

Fidel’s ardent adversaries say that young people do not wish to die for anti-communist propaganda. Cubans continue to escape from their native island, of course. However, they do not run for the glorious victory of people’s sovereignty. They are simply seeking a better life.

Let’s imagine that the US administration succeeds in the establishment of the new regime in Cuba. In this case US special services will have to take great efforts to intensify the protection of the US-Mexican border and close Florida from hundreds of thousands of Cubans willing to get acquainted with the “benefits of American democracy” as soon as possible. As for the possible fight for power in Cuba, the victory will most likely belong to the new generation of Cuban officials and politicians.

Politcom.ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Pravda.ru

Forecasters are grateful to Cuba

Miami Herald

In cooperation that three years ago would have been unprecedented, U.S. military planes flew over Cuba to help scientists track Tropical Storm Ernesto.

BY DAVID OVALLE
dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

U.S military planes soared over Cuba this week.

The sorties did not spark any international incidents -- but they did help South Floridians indirectly prepare for Tropical Storm Ernesto.

Between Sunday and Monday, U.S. Air Force C-130 ''hurricane hunters'' flew into Cuban airspace at least twice a day, sampling storm conditions such as wind speed, barometric pressure and other meteorological measurements.

Despite nearly five decades of tension between the United States and Cuba, storm safety overrode all that.

''We are both in the same business -- we're trying to save people's lives,'' said Lixion Avila, a Cuban-born hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade.

On Tuesday, U.S. forecasters publicly thanked Cuba for granting access to island airspace so they could obtain data vital to tracking Ernesto.

Forecaster Stacy Stewart, who was tracking the storm overnight, tossed in a brief note of appreciation in one of his storm advisories: ``Special thanks to the government of Cuba for permitting the recon aircraft to fly right up to their coastline to gather this critical weather data.''

In truth, said John Pavone, who coordinates hurricane hunter flights for the hurricane center, the Cuban government has never had problems with helping out U.S. forecasters.

Civilian WP-3D Orion jets operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flew in Cuban airspace for years. But their capabilities were limited.

The U.S. Air Force has 10 prop-engine C-130s -- but that branch of the military long had a self-imposed rule barring its aircraft from the COmmunist island's airspace.

''Fidel always said we could come on down,'' Pavone said. ``But [the Air Force] wouldn't do it.''

An old reminder of the rule hangs in Pavone's office: a giant wall map with an offlimits red zone blocked out around the island.

That began to change in 2000 when Max Mayfield became the hurricane center's director.

One of his goals was to improve communications with Cuban meteorologists on storm tracking.

''It helps them and it helps us too,'' Mayfield said of hurricane hunter flights into Cuban airspace.

Mayfield's international influence also may have helped. He chairs the Regional World Meteorological Organization's Regional Association, which includes 26 members from Caribbean countries, including Cuba.

After Mayfield announced last week that he was retiring in January, he received a heartfelt e-mail of congratulations from José Rubiera, head of Cuba's Institute of Meteorology.

The U.S. State Department eventually saw it Mayfield's way.

Three years ago, C-130s made their first flights into Cuban airspace to help track storms. Their use is not uncommon -- they flew during Katrina last year when it was still a tropical storm.

Now, to request permission to fly weather missions into Cuban airspace, Mayfield sends a request to the State Department, which forwards it to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C.

Last Friday, Mayfield sent off the letter, writing that ``interrupting the data flow will be harmful to the track and intensity forecast process.''

The data helped forecasters gauge Ernesto's prolonged westward dawdle over the island -- and eventual weakening.

''We knew everything. [Barometric] pressure, maximum wind speed, wind. . . . We knew everything,'' said forecaster Avila.

Mayfield said he can't remember ever acknowledging Cuba's cooperation on recon flights in writing, but he sees no problem with what Stewart said.

''I'm not sure we've ever thanked them in a public advisory, but it was a nice touch,'' Mayfield said. ``I've certainly thanked them informally.''

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cuba, US Unstoppable in Baseball Olympic Qualifier

Havana, Aug 29 (Prensa Latina) The national baseball teams of Cuba and the US will try to continue with their winning streak in the Olympic Qualification Tournament for the Americas taking place in Havana on Tuesday.

Pool A leader Cuba, which has defeated Colombia, Panama and Dominican Republic, plays against Nicaragua in the Latin American Stadium.

Nicaraguans are in the second position with 2 wins and a loss, tied with Panama, which faces off with underdog Ecuador.

The Dominican Republic will play against Colombia.

The US, commanding the Pool B, after straight victories over Canada, Brazil and Mexico, collides with Puerto Rico.

The four teams with most wins in each pool advance to the next round.

Cubans and the US seem to be with greatest possibilities and tools to grab the two berths for the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008.

This tournament also offers positions for Rio de Janeiro 2007 Pan American Games and four slots for the World Cup in Chinese Taipei next year.

Misreading Cuba, for 47 and a Half Years

Washington's Ignorance

August 29, 2006

CounterPunch

By SAUL LANDAU

For forty seven and a half years, Washington and the mainstream media have misread Cuban reality. This fallacious view of events on the nearby island continued on July 31 when Fidel Castro (almost 80) entered the hospital and issued a public letter. In it, he ceded power, temporarily, to his brother Raul (75). He also named other top Communist Party officials to head major government departments. All adult Cubans know Raul Castro's name, as they do the names Lage, Machado Ventura, Balaguer, Lazo and Perez Roque. These officials have for years assumed the very responsibilities that Castro assigned them in his letter. So, the actual power transition in Cuba had begun before Castro's incapacitating illness.

The US government's responded by warning Cubans on the island not to leave and those in Florida not to return. This demonstrated anew their ignorance of Cuban actuality and disinterest in learning. The media has also misled the public. On August 7, more than a week after Fidel entered the hospital and underwent surgery, two AM radio hosts asked me why Raul Castro had not appeared in public. Raul rarely appears in public as all Cubans know. Indeed, a public display by Raul at time of Fidel's hospitalization might have signaled something amiss inside the government. On August 14, Raul did appear at the airport to greet Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who came to visit the recuperating Castro. Several friends in Havana told me they had not noticed his public absence.

Unreported, naturally, Cuba's electricity and water supplies continued to enter Cuban homes and work-places and people went to work on crowded busses, just as they did before Fidel had surgery. Successful take offs and landings don't make news! Several news reports noted "more police presence in certain neighborhoods." But no reporter actually counted the cops or compared numbers of actual police on patrol before and after Fidel's hospitalization. Two weeks after Castro's surgery, Cubans report that all seems normal after the temporary formal passing of state power by the man who has held it tightly for 47 plus years. On August 15, Cuba's media showed photos of Cuba's perennial leader smiling in a sweat suit, apparently recovering from his surgery. Within six weeks, he might again resume his duties.
So, what did all this ado mean?

In Cuba, the anti-Castro "dissidents did not organize protests, or street demonstrations. Miami-based Cubans danced and drank on the street when they heard the rumor--false as it turned out -- of Fidel's impending death. Well, some Cubans will use any excuse--even in bad taste -- to party!

After desperate news flashes and punditry about the world-shaking importance of Fidel's impending demise, little has really changed. Cubans on the island continue to complain about shortages, corruption, bureaucracy; valid gripes. Most of them also understand that the revolution has meant relative security. Fidel's temporary disability will not remove their free housing, education, health care and social services. They will also continue to receive subsidized food and entertainment. In other words, daily life in Cuba seems stable, despite the turmoil produced by 47 years of US hostility.

In Bush's message to the Cuban people, he revealed his newest plan to bring them "democracy." He referred to a plan by his appointed Commission on Cuba released on July 10, three weeks before Castro entered the hospital. The lengthy report reveals how Bush intends to woo Cubans from "communist dictatorship" to "free market democracy." When the United States claims to be a friend of the Cuban people and offers to help them, however, a loud reality gong ought to ring in the capitals of both countries.

Bush's Commission affirms that the United States has a duty to reassert its control over Cuba--as if somehow the Cubans had held a secret election to decide this path. In fast, Cubans know the United States government only as a threat to Cuba and a source of their hardship over decades. From the outset of Cuba's revolution in 1959, the United States has behaved badly toward Cuba's revolution. Washington welcomed Batista police and army officials who were known to have killed and tortured people during the insurrectionary period, 1957-8. Indeed, the United States has continued to admit Castro's enemies. They have made a major impact in Florida; but have had no influence in Cuba. The United States imported Castro's opposition; or, Castro practiced political judo on the United States.

During the 1960s, Castro publicized the damage caused by the CIA's thousands of terrorist missions against Cuba. They destroyed property and tried to assassinate Cuba's leaders. In April 1961, Castro became a hero in much of Latin America by defeating the Agency's unsuccessful invasion of Cuba by exiles at the Bay of Pigs. All Cubans learned that every Administrations tried to strangle Cuba's economy and isolate her diplomatically--and backed sporadic terrorist missions. Yet, President Bush behaves as if all Cubans on the island should know of the purity of his intentions toward them.

Chaired by Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, Bush's Cuba Commission foresees a "transition to democracy"--not the succession of one Communist dictator to another. Translating this, I read that the United States will guide Cuba's political reform. Alongside a US style electoral system and US-style parties, Washington would also privatize Cuba's economy. For educated Cubans, the vast majority on the island, the report resonates with the language of the 1902 Platt Amendment, which engraved in Cuba's first Constitution the right for the United States to intervene in Cuban affairs as it saw fit.

The Commission report reads as if Cubans would naively warm to Bush's plan. The Commission members must think islanders have grown weary of having free rent and would welcome an onrush of Miami-based exiles to privatize their homes and apartments and charge them rent. Instead of getting free education and health care, they would no doubt improve their standards by shelling out to profit making enterprises to buy these services, as they would for entertainment, utilities and transportation, which the socialist government subsidizes.

Does Bush think Cubans are stupid or crazy? Despite the hardships of daily life, the absence of a free press or political parties, most Cubans understand that Castro built these public services. Moreover, they will tell any visitor that the revolution put Cuba on the historical map. Hundreds of thousands served in military actions that changed the course of southern African history. Until the Cuban revolution, Latin American nations didn't dare vote contrary to US desires in the OAS or UN.
Under Castro, Cuba opened 13 medical schools that produce more doctors abroad than the World Health Organization. Its athletes, artists and scientists have etched their accomplishments in the minds of people all over the world. When Pakistan was struck by an earthquake, Cuban not US doctors poured in to help, as they did in Honduras when Nature punished that country.

These facts--not the lack of freedom, which are serious issues -- should serve as context for Fidel Castro's letter delegating power to his 75 year old brother Raul. Just before his 80th birthday, Fidel's written message to Cubans said: "The operation has obliged me to take various weeks of rest, at a remove from my responsibilities and duties. Given that our country is threatened in circumstances like this by the government of the United States,"

The named leaders already constitute the core of an informal committee. Now Raul will chair instead of Fidel--until he recovers sufficient strength to return. Castro's sudden bout with death dramatized that at almost 80 he cannot persevere as Cuba's ruler. The US government and media wonder what will happen when the "dictator" finally passes, as if Castro magically micromanaged all policy and directed all government action. Indeed, Cuba's bureaucracy has for decades run the island--except during crisis.

Castro has spent much of his recent months days talking on television, promoting "the battle of ideas" and hosting state functions and dinners. His ceremonial duties hardly leave him time--poor sleeper that he is--to intricately manage all important affairs of state. The formal delegation affirms the status that all Cuban knew Raul had. He has remained at Fidel's side, albeit also in his shadow even before 1953 when Fidel led a band of rebels to attack Fort Moncada in hopes of catalyzing an island-wide uprising against dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Raul accompanied Fidel to Mexico. He served as number two in the guerrilla band that fought and won the revolution in 1959. He has been the man in the wings for almost forty eight years, a well-known quantity that will not make Cubans nervous. Even if he should pass, other veteran leaders know their jobs. No power vacuum will arise that eager Florida exiles will fill. The country will not fall into paralysis after big state funerals in the coming years, just as it didn't when Fidel entered the hospital in late July. Cubans know this as do observant visitors.

They watched Raul in 1960 administer change from a guerrilla to a professional army. He played a major role at the Bay of Pigs, and directed important operations for Cuba's overseas military operations in Africa from the 1970s through the 1980s. He showed his administrative skills by supervising the establishment of Cuba's new Communist Party in 1965 and in its attempt to fashion a socialist constitution in 1976 and 1992. Over the next month Raul will chair the informal decision-making committee. Raul's health is rumored to be less than perfect, but more important, he does not possess the charisma to command consensus. If anything, decision making will require more time in Fidel's absence.

In 1968, while filming Fidel, a PBS documentary, Fidel told me that "socialist democracy should assure everyone's constant participation in political activity." This insight is incompatible with fatherly control--even for people's "own good." Paternal attitudes sapped initiative from Cuban society. By "giving" people what they needed without demanding mature responsibility and by maintaining control of virtually all projects, the Communist Party and government helped depoliticize the very people they had educated.

For the sake of the Cuban people, US citizens should hope that democracy will flourish in Cuba. After almost five decades of unsuccessful and damaging policy, it's time for someone in the US government to scream: "attention, our policy has failed. Let's try acting responsibly. The embargo and travel ban have achieved hardship for Cubans and inconvenience for US citizens.

Washington once ran Cuba's economy and supported a dictator obedient to US needs. It's time to let Americans go to Cuba, erode the embargo and open the island to cultural and political currents that might bring pleasant and democratic winds of change.

Saul Landau is a fellow at IPS. His new book, A Bush and Botox World, will be published by CounterPunch/AK Press next year.

Cuba back on track


Cuban citrus back on track

Story published: Tue 29 Aug 06 11:01

The largest Cuban citrus growing area – Jaguey Grande – is expecting a 600,000 tonne crop of grapefruit and oranges. Production area is split 3:2 between oranges and grapefruit respectively and in volume terms the grapefruit crop accounts for roughly half of the total.

The Jaguey Grange area represents 60 per cent of the national crop and some 70-80 per cent of exports. Last season yields were down by half largely due to the activity of hurricane Dennis, which swept the island in July last year.

According to reports from Radio Rebelde earlier this week plantations in Jaguey Grande are yielding some 25 tonnes a hectare.

Citrus has become Cuba’s second most important export crop after tobacco.

Alice Walker: USA wishes to impose domination on Cuba


By: Luis Melián

Havana, Aug 28 (PL) Reaffirming support for Cuba in the face of The Bush Administration´s new threats, 1983 Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker said today that the United States only wishes to impose domination on the island and destroy its example.

I in no way condone the cruelty inflicted upon the Cuban people by the government of my country, stressed the authoress of the Color Purple in an interview with Prensa Latina.

Mrs. Walker is among the 18 thousand-plus personalities who have signed the ¨Cuba´s Sovereignty Must be Respected¨ Declaration.

Commenting on what led her to sign that document, the renowned writer said that she stands with her friends in Cuba and ¨with people everywhere -in our billions- who understand perfectly well that it isn´t democracy the US wishes to impose but domination and destruction of what many of us believe is a crucial example of a different way to exist, with dignity, in the world¨.

The US government is wrong in its views and treatment of Cuba, and of many other people and countries around the globe, added Mrs. Walker, who has been actively involved in the US Civil Rights Movement, the Women¨s Movement and the antiapartheid struggle, among others.

Aware of the effects of the US policy on Cubans and the latter´s aspirations, she stressed the following message:

Ït is important to me that he people of Cuba understand clearly and at all times that I wish for them exactly what I wish for myself: peace, prosperity, justice, safety, and happiness.

The Cuba´s Sovereignty Must Be Respected¨ Declaration stands as further support from famous artists, politicians, and academicians in the face of the Bush Administration´s new threats on the island.

Washington´s latest measures are summed up in a so-called Plan for a Transition in Cuba, including a secret chapter. The latter has led some to believe that the US is not ruling out a military invasion.

The declaration calling for respect for Cuban sovereignty has been endorsed by several other US personalities, including journalist Saul Landau, movie stars Benicio del Toro, Danny Glover, and Harry Belafonte, and political analyst James Petras.

500 Pakistanis to go to Cuba for medical course

The Peninsula, Qatar

Web posted at: 8/29/2006 7:31:17

ISLAMABAD • The first batch of 500 Pakistani students will leave for Cuba this year to start their medical education under the scholarships announced by Cuba, Cuban Ambassador to Pakistan Gustavo Machin Gomez has said.

Havana announced the scholarships when its medical teams worked in the earthquake-affected areas in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and North West Frontier Province.

He said that modalities are being finalised with the Pakistani government through Higher Education Commission, Ministry of Health and Education to select the students. The ambassador said 1,000 scholarships were announced by Cuba for the Pakistani students.

The Higher Education Commission has announced programme for these scholarships for Pakistani students by the Cuban government for graduate studies in general comprehensive medicine (equivalent to MBBS), in leading Cuban medical institutions.

The Cuban ambassador, who is the first to Islamabad after up-gradation and reopening of its embassy, said the two countries have long standing diplomatic ties that will be taken to a higher level.

He said with the exchange of delegations particularly the scholarships for the students would further promote relations between the two countries.

A committee headed by HEC Chairman Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman has been formed, which includes representatives of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health to finalise the students for Cuba. The scholarship programme include regular graduate programmes in general comprehensive medicine for a period of five years.

The Cuban ambassador said Pakistan and Cuba have a vast scope of improving their bilateral, trade, economic and cultural relations and were heading in that direction.

Chavez eyes role in future of Cuba

Washington Times

WORLD BRIEFINGS
By Sacha Feinman
SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
August 29, 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez, Latin America's most vocal opponent of the United States, is expected to play a significant role in the future of a post-Castro Cuba, analysts say.

"I think there is no doubt that Cuba relies substantially on Venezuela's economic support, and that Chavez is not going to go away. He is going to be an important factor in the transition," said Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank.

Thanks to his country's sizable energy reserves, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, Mr. Chavez is able to supply 90,000 barrels of oil daily to his Caribbean ally.

According to Christina Macao, Mr. Chavez has long looked to Fidel Castro as a mentor, and it is possible he would not remain disposed to such favorable commercial terms should he feel the legacy of the Cuban Revolution is not being honored, said Miss Macao, a scholar who follows the Venezuelan leader's presidency.

"Chavez looks at Castro as Latin America's greatest leftist leader. They have always had a very close relationship. For Chavez, Castro is like a father figure, a revolutionary like he wants to be."

Recently, Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and Cuba's acting president, acknowledged in an interview with the state press the possibility of normalizing relations with the United States.

"We have always been disposed to normalize relations on an equal plane. ... But this would be possible only when the United States decides to negotiate with seriousness and is willing to treat us with a spirit of equality, reciprocity and the fullest mutual respect," the younger Mr. Castro said as Fidel continued to recover from intestinal surgery.

The State Department was unimpressed, with a spokesman calling Raul "Fidel light."

"I think Chavez is going to do anything he can to keep the Cuban system going," said Mr. Shifter. "Cuba is one of the pillars of the international left. It has provided Chavez with a degree of legitimacy. ... It is the greatest symbol of a political experiment that stood up to and defied the U.S. for five decades."

Cuba apabulló a República Dominicana 17 carreras por tres


Frente a Dominicana, Osmani Urrutia fue un azote con el madero.
Foto: Alex Castro

Juventud Rebelde

El tirador derecho Frank Montieth lanzará hoy por Cuba en el juego frente a Nicaragua, esta noche en el estadio Latinoamericano de La Habana

Por: Raúl Arce

Correo: raul_arce@jrebelde.cip.cu
29 de agosto de 2006 23:46:41 GMT

El zurdo nicaragüense Asdrudes Flores, tal vez en su último torneo —tiene 45 años de edad, según registros oficiales, aunque los periodistas de su país le calculan dos almanaques más— tendrá ante sí la monumental tarea de lanzarle a Cuba, esta noche, en la cuarta salida de ambos equipos durante el torneo Preolímpico de Béisbol de América.

Frank Montieth, nacido en 1985, será el rival de Asdrudes, y parece favorito para agenciarse el cuarto triunfo de su equipo.

Los hombres que dirige Rey Vicente Anglada soltaron amarras la víspera, ante República Dominicana, y no cesaron de golpear la Mizuno 150 hasta completar el nocao de 17 carreras por 3, en programa del grupo A.

Pestano, Paret, Mayeta y Urrutia recorrieron las almohadillas de un solo golpe, así que el inicialista de la capital es puntero con tres jonrones. El noveno en orden de los perdedores dio un batazo sin fin.

A Yulieski lo sustituyó otro González, Norberto, en el sexto inning.

Totales: CUB (17-18-2), DOM (3-6-2). Ganó: Yulieski González (1-0) Perdió: Pedro J. Novoa (0-1). HR: Ariel Pestano, Eduardo Paret, Alexander Mayeta, Osmani Urrutia y Luis de Paula.

Monday, August 28, 2006

This is what Miami Cuban exiles should do.


The Seattle Times

Nation seeking freer trade with U.S.

By Evelyn Iritani

Los Angeles Times

MARK BOSTER / L.A. TIMES

Nghia Van Phi, president of a Santa Ana, Calif., discount home-improvement outlet, supports a bill that would normalize trade relations with Vietnam, his native country.

When Nghia Van Phi first returned home to Vietnam in 2003, he still carried animosities toward the communist government he had fled nearly three decades earlier.

But Phi, president of a Santa Ana, Calif., discount home-improvement outlet, has since become an enthusiastic supporter of the economic rebuilding of that country. His company, US HiFi, a scaled-down version of Home Depot that caters to the Vietnamese-American community, imports 70 percent of its ceramic tiles, solid-oak entry doors and other home products from Vietnam.

That's why Phi hopes Congress will act soon on a bill establishing "permanent normal trade relations" with Vietnam, the final step in freeing up trade and investment between the former adversaries. During the Cold War, most communist countries were denied that trade status, which meant they paid higher tariffs in the U.S.

Supporters hope to pass the legislation before Vietnam joins the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Geneva-based global trade group. Leaders in Hanoi want to complete their WTO bid by November, when they host President Bush and Asian leaders for this year's meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Vietnam hopes to replicate the success of China, which saw its global prestige and trade volume soar after it joined the WTO in 2001. To secure the country's membership, Hanoi officials have agreed to lower tariffs, remove barriers to foreign retailers and banks, strengthen the judicial system and crack down on corruption.

Approval expected

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders expect the Vietnam bill to be approved, given the bipartisan support from congressional leaders who served in the war, including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and John Kerry, D-Mass.

Vietnam still could enter the WTO without U.S. approval, but trade between the country and the U.S. would not be governed by global rules, putting U.S. companies at a disadvantage, the bill's supporters say.

Passage of permanent normal trade relations with Vietnam wouldn't have much of an immediate effect on Phi, because the goods he imports already have low tariffs and he hasn't directly invested money there.

But he says normalized relations would have the psychological benefit of clearing away the final barrier between the U.S. and Vietnam, plus they would encourage the communist government to continue moving toward greater economic and political openness.

Phi also thinks that full normalization between the two countries would lessen hostility among Vietnamese Americans toward the government of Vietnam, making it easier for them to do business with their former homeland.

"The people in my country are very smart, very hardworking," said Phi, 53. "If Americans give Vietnam the chance to open up and step into the WTO, the life of my people will change."

Concerns raised

Human-rights groups, however, have raised concerns about Vietnam's harsh treatment of political dissidents, ethnic minorities and Christians.

Vietnam's bid also is opposed by some U.S. textile and apparel makers, who contend that its entry into the WTO would reward another Asian exporting juggernaut that has used unfair trade practices to bolster its textile and apparel exports at the expense of U.S. competitors.

After the U.S. and Vietnam signed a bilateral treaty in 2001, two-way trade jumped from $1.5 billion to $7.8 billion. The biggest beneficiaries were Vietnamese textile and apparel makers, whose exports to the U.S. increased 6,000 percent over that period, according to the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), a domestic lobbying group. Over the past year, Vietnam shipped $3.1 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the U.S.

"We're talking about making the same mistake with Vietnam that we did with China," said AMTAC spokesman Lloyd Wood in Washington, D.C.

But Virginia Foote, president of the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council, a business lobbying group, said Vietnam wasn't even close to having China's clout in the U.S. marketplace. Even with its recent export spurt, Vietnam represents less than 4 percent of the U.S. textile and apparel market, she said.

The Vietnamese government has improved its business climate in anticipation of joining the WTO, said Walter Blocker, managing partner of Gannon Vietnam and chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ho Chi Minh City. That includes the passage of more than 50 laws since 2004.

Investment predicted

Blocker predicted that U.S. investment in Vietnam would rise sharply once WTO membership was final, given the country's attractive domestic market and low production costs. More than half of Vietnam's 84 million people are under age 30, and they are enthusiastic consumers of U.S. culture, including such things as movies and mascara.

Blocker, who distributes a number of top U.S. brands including Maybelline and L'Oreal cosmetics, said the Vietnamese spend $350 million to $400 million a year on "nonshampoo cosmetics," a market that barely existed 12 years ago.

"Now we have 20 percent to 25 percent of the women coloring their hair," said Blocker, who helped launch the country's cosmetics revolution by setting up lipstick counters in Vietnamese markets more than a decade ago.

Vietnam's 90 percent literacy rate and low labor costs (as low as half the cost of China) also make the country an appealing platform for regional production, Blocker said. And for U.S. companies worried about becoming "entangled in political disputes" between the U.S. and China, Vietnam offers a more stable location, he said.

Intel investment

After considering sites in China, India and Thailand, Intel announced this year that it would build a $300 million chip-assembly and test facility in a government-owned industrial park on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. Intel plans to begin construction by year's end and hopes to start commercial production in 2009.

Intel manager Than Phuc said the Vietnamese government offered the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker an attractive incentive package, including cheap land and power, tax incentives and training subsidies. But he said the clincher was the government's willingness to address the company's concerns, such as the delays caused by the country's antiquated customs-processing system.

"What impressed our management the most was the open and frank way the government spoke with Intel," he said.

Than said one of the Vietnamese government's priorities was creating jobs for the 1 million-plus people entering its work force every year. Intel has said its facility, which represents the largest investment in Vietnam by a U.S. company, eventually would create 1,200 jobs.

But Than, who is based in Ho Chi Minh City, hopes Vietnam's entry into the WTO will encourage more Vietnamese Americans to bring their talents and money to the Asian nation.

"The U.S. is my home, but I don't have a return ticket," said Than, whose family fled Vietnam in one of the last helicopters to lift off from the U.S. Embassy rooftop in 1975. "Someday I will have a home here and a home in the U.S. I think it is most Vietnamese Americans' dream."

Some Vietnamese-American leaders remain strongly opposed to lifting the final trade barriers until their former homeland is "free and democratic," said Hieu T. Nguyen, president of First Vietnamese American Bank in Westminster, Calif., which was set up last year to serve the 300,000 Vietnamese Americans living in Southern California.

But Nguyen said he, like many other Vietnamese Americans, views Vietnam's entry into the global economy as inevitable, and hopes that the government's embrace of free markets will eventually result in greater political freedoms.

Of Vietnam's WTO bid, he said: "No one can stop it."

--------------------------------------------------

The Inquirer

Intel backs the Communist party

McCarthy spins

By Nick Farrell: Monday 28 August 2006, 09:53

CHIPMAKER INTEL is to help the Vietnamese Communist Party move its computer systems to open-source.

Under the deal, Chipzilla will help the Communist Party's Central Committee for Science and Education (CCSE) set up a laboratory. The OpenLab will test and develop open-source software for Vietnam and when all the work is done, the various projects will be rolled out onto Intel chips.

The lab deal will mean that more than 27,000 PCs will run Intel processors. The Communist Party's decision to use open-source software is part of a wider Vietnamese government effort. In 2004, the government announced plans to promote the software's use in a bid to reduce IT costs and promote the development of the local software industry.

Chipzilla is spending heaps in Vietnam, which it sees as a low-cost alternative to China. Earlier this year it said it will build a US$300 million test and assembly plant in Ho Chi Minh City.

Portada de La Jiribilla


La Jiribilla

Alexander Mayeta

Cuba's economic fate up in air

USA Today

Updated 8/27/2006 11:05 PM ET

By Edward Iwata, USA TODAY
Millions of visitors to Havana have been entranced by the Cuban capital's resorts and restaurants, its centuries-old baroque and colonial architecture, its malecon seawall and promenade.

Behind the tourists' facade, though, the Castro regime and military and government officials control nearly all of Cuba's multibillion-dollar economy, including tourism, finance, retail, agriculture and energy.

Now, with 80-year-old Fidel Castro ailing after surgery, speculation is rising over the future of Cuba's economy and the anticipated rule of brother Raul Castro, the military strongman who lords over hundreds of state-run businesses.

Despite the hope of U.S. companies that Cuba might welcome capitalism and that the U.S. might lift its long-running embargo, dramatic change probably won't happen soon. Raul Castro is unlikely to anger Cuba's ruling elite by launching major economic reforms, economists and Cuba scholars predict.

"If Fidel dies, the grip of the military would be even greater than now," says Antonio Jorge, an economist at Florida International University. "Raul would buy the loyalty of generals and high-ranking officials by showering them with more privileges and economic benefits."

Talk of Cuba's economic fate comes amid reports of Fidel Castro's intestinal surgery earlier this month and the transfer of power to his brother. The news fueled speculation that Castro might die, setting off street celebrations among Miami's large Cuban population.

The stakes remain high: billions of dollars in future trade and investments and 11 million potential Cuban consumers only 90 miles from Florida. Economists say that U.S. failure to tap into the Cuban economy will benefit only leftist Venezuela and communist China, Cuba's biggest trade partners.

"Cuba is an evolving and dramatic new market," says Ruben Bonilla, chairman of the Port of Corpus Christi in Texas. "We don't want to miss the party because of an embargo begun 10 U.S. presidents ago."

Venezuela supplies Cuba with half of its oil, shipping 78,000 barrels of crude oil daily at subsidized prizes. China imports nickel from Cuba and has signed a spate of business deals with the Castros.

Both countries are likely to grow closer to Cuba. It has potential crude oil reserves of up to 9 billion barrels and vast natural gas reserves, reports the U.S. Geological Survey. Already, Cuba has signed lease agreements with China, India, Canada and Spain.

U.S.-Cuba relations have been rocky since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. A 44-year U.S. trade embargo bans nearly all exports to Cuba except agricultural and medical goods. Anti-communists say the Castro regime must fall before the embargo is lifted, while pro-trade forces say impoverished Cuba needs capitalism.

In spite of the embargo, U.S. businesses — especially in agriculture, shipping, oil and energy, tourism, retail, finance and construction — hope a new ruler might lead to a new Cuban economy.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, U.S. companies wanted to rush into Cuba, thinking it would be the next Soviet bloc country to fall, says Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. That didn't happen.

"Now," says Suchlicki, "it's beginning to pick up again because it looks like there might be change."

A new Cuba?

Kirby Jones, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association, says Canada and European nations have more than 300 joint ventures with Cuba in telecommunications, oil and energy, mining, port management and other sectors. "This is not the Cuba of old, when everything was under Soviet Union domination," he says. "This is a brand new version, a mixture of capitalism and socialism."

Raul Castro could continue in that direction, some economists and scholars say. Initially, he might unveil small, cosmetic reforms to polish Cuba's image and win over his people. He might let Cubans start thousands of small businesses in trade, agriculture and tourism, as the Castros allowed in the mid-1990s.

One scenario: Cuba copies China, a blend of authoritarian state control, manufacturing, mass-market consumerism and high-tech development.

"At best, Raul will try the mini-China model," says Antonio Gayoso of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy and a former economist in Cuba's finance ministry. "At worst, he and the military will continue the repressive control they have now."

Cuba's economy was stronger in the 1950s, when it was one of Latin America's top trade powers. Havana was a hot tourist site, and the U.S. and Great Britain were Cuba's largest trading partners.

After Fidel Castro's guerrilla war ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, much of the economy fell apart. Cuba became a kind of welfare nation, with the old Soviet Union pouring $65 billion in aid and loans into Cuba from 1960 to 1990.

Behind the times

Economists say much of Cuba remains frozen in the past and lacks the modern ports, airports, business facilities and power grid needed to grow global trade. More than half of Cubans live in poverty, and the United Nations runs an emergency food program for 700,000. The country also is saddled by heavy debt, owing Venezuela, Russia and European nations $40 billion, Suchlicki says.

Even joint ventures between Cuba and other countries have dwindled. The State Department says they are down to 300 from 540 in 1982, and majority ownership by foreign partners does not really exist.

Production of sugar, citrus fruits, fertilizer and other goods has fallen since the early 1990s, after Soviet aid stopped.

Only oil, gas and nickel have seen growth in that period because of Venezuelan and Chinese investments, says Carmelo Mesa-Lago, an economics professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Other bright lights in Cuba's $39 billion economy: tourism and nascent bioscience and pharmaceutical industries, economists say.

In recent years, Cuba has claimed nearly full employment for its workers and annual economic growth ranging from 5% to 12% — even with droughts, hurricanes, blackouts and disastrous sugar harvests.

Some economists say the figures are fabricated. "It is economic propaganda," Mesa-Lago says. "Data is manipulated to show that Cuba's economic policies are paying off, when the standard of living for Cubans has declined."

Other obstacles to more open markets in Cuba and trade with the U.S.:

•Hardcore Stalinism. Since the 1950s, Fidel and Raul Castro have ruled the economy with iron fists, say Cuba experts. Outspoken political and economic reformers have been shunned or imprisoned.

In the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation, Cuba ranks as one of the world's least-free nations, with Libya, Iran and North Korea.

"Fidel and Raul said many times, 'No, we will never open the door to capitalists,' " says Jesus Marzo Fernandez, a former Cuban finance official and defector who lives in Miami. "They will never change."

Over the years, Fidel Castro allowed six major shifts in economic policy, according to Mesa-Lago. But as the economy improved, he pulled back, fearing the growing power of business leaders.

Mesa-Lago likens Fidel Castro to Mao Zedong, the late Chinese dictator. Mao also was a charismatic Communist revolutionary who forced turbulent economic changes on his nation. And he had a youthful cadre of government officials eager to embrace global trade.

"But not until Mao died," says Mesa-Lago, "were reformers able to push through changes."

•Fidel Castro Inc. For four decades, Fidel Castro has controlled nearly all of Cuba's financial resources, according to Maria Werlau, a Cuba expert and president of the Free Society Project in Summit, N.J., and congressional testimony by former Cuban finance and military officials.

Forbes has estimated Fidel Castro's wealth at $900 million, which Castro has vehemently denied.

Werlau and other Cuba experts say the figure is low. They say the Castros and loyalists control several billions of dollars in real estate, bank accounts, private estates, yachts and other assets — called "the Comandante's Reserves" — in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

"The best estimates appear to be well shy of the vast wealth under his command," Werlau says.

Jorge Sanguinetty,CEO of DevTech Systems, an economics consulting firm in Washington, D.C., writes in a report that Cuba's economy is "a gigantic privatization process with one and only one owner: Castro himself."

•Trade embargo. Given lingering anti-communist sentiment in Congress, the embargo probably won't vanish soon. Moreover, the 1996 Helms-Burton Act bars U.S. political and business ties with Cuba unless democracy arises there.

Pro-trade forces plan to raise the embargo issue with lawmakers this fall. Agribusiness persuaded Congress in 2000 to allow U.S. businesses to export some agricultural goods to Cuba. Since then, farmers have signed deals to ship $2 billion in cattle, poultry, grain, rice, beans, apples and cotton to Cuba, says the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association.

Food exports' potential

State Department officials recently said the U.S. might open political and economic ties to Cuba — if Cuba were to transition into a democracy.

With no embargo, agricultural officials say, U.S. food exports could grow tenfold. Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, says ranchers last year shipped Cuba 78,000 metric tons of chicken. That's 3,500 truckloads of refrigerated containers.

"The opportunities in Cuba are tremendous, due to the proximity to the U.S.," says Sumner, who has dined with Fidel Castro in his Havana palace during agricultural trade missions.

Ralph Kaehler, a rancher in St. Charles, Minn., has been enthused about Cuba trade ever since he flew to Havana on a trade mission with former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura three years ago. Since that trip, Kaehler has brokered several million dollars in deals for companies to sell agricultural goods to Cuba.

"Our government talks about free trade with China, Vietnam — every country except Cuba," says Kaehler, whose German ancestors started the family farm in 1881. "Whether you like or dislike the Castro government, if we had more trade with them, our influence and impact there would be much greater."

Agribusiness isn't alone in desiring more business with Cuba. At JetBlue, spokeswoman Jenny Dervinsays there would be "great demand for non-stop travel between New York and Havana," and flights between Cuba and Florida, where JetBlue serves six cities.

Despite the Cold War politics between the U.S. and Cuban governments, pro-trade advocates say many of the Cuban people seem open to economic change.

Says Kaehler: "Cubans may not want wholehearted democracy like in the U.S., but they do want basic food and medicine and a few more freedoms."

Cubans brace for Ernesto without Fidel Castro

Caribbean Net News

Monday, August 28, 2006

by Marc Frank

HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters): For the first time in four decades, Cubans on Sunday faced the possibility of confronting a hurricane without longtime leader Fidel Castro personally leading the nation through the storm.

Castro, who underwent surgery to stop intestinal bleeding at the end of July, and Raul Castro, who took over temporarily while his older brother recovered, remained out of sight as Hurricane Ernesto bore down on the Caribbean nation.

"I'm not worried," said retiree Pedro de la Fuente in a phone interview from the easternmost province of Guantanamo.

"Everyone knows what they have to do and I'm sure Raul is leading civil defense efforts," he said.

Since Hurricane Flora killed several thousand Cubans in 1963, four years after Castro seized power, he made a point of showing up on the spot to personally supervise emergency preparations and recovery efforts during hurricanes.

As he grew older, Castro stopped personally chasing the storms that regularly hit Cuba and began directing civil defense efforts from his office or live from a TV studio. Castro passed his 80th birthday on Aug. 13 in his sick bed.

In earlier years, for hours before and after a storm, Castro would be seen on state television exhorting Cubans to evacuate where necessary.

Raul Castro, the 75-year-old defense minister, has always preferred a much lower profile.

Several Havana residents said on Sunday, a day before Ernesto was expected to reach eastern Cuba as a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, they expected a message of encouragement from Castro's sick bed, and for Raul Castro to appear at some point.

"I'm sure we will see Raul and bet Fidel can't resist saying something," said a Havana nurse, who asked not to be identified.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast Ernesto would come ashore near Santiago de Cuba, then move slowly inland as it traversed most of the island in a northwesterly direction, and exit from west-central Villa Clara province on Tuesday.

"It's sad Fidel can't be here, but preparations will be as always," said Clara Bueno, 46, in a telephone interview from Santiago de Cuba where she rents out rooms to tourists.

A weak hurricane is unlikely to pose a significant danger to Cubans as the country's much touted civil defense system invariably forces the vulnerable to evacuate. Some of the country's dilapidated buildings, however, could suffer damage.

Preparations were in full gear on Sunday with more than 200,000 people being evacuated and official media broadcasting constant warnings and instructions.

Ernesto nears Cuba on track to southern Florida

Reuters

Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:35am ET147

By Anthony Boadle

HAVANA, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Ernesto bore down on southeastern Cuba on Monday after drenching Haiti with punishing rains, while forecasters issued a hurricane watch for the southern peninsula of Florida.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued the watch from Deerfield Beach southward on Florida's east coast and from south of Chokoloskee southward along the west coast. The watch, which means hurricane conditions could develop within 36 hours, remained in effect for all the Florida Keys.

Florida, storm-weary after eight hurricanes in the past two years, declared a state of emergency on Sunday and ordered tourists out of the vulnerable Keys almost a year to the day since Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans.

Ernesto, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday after skirting southern Haiti, was pounding Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, with flooding rainfall and killed at least one person there.

Cuba, facing its first big storm in decades without its ailing leader, Fidel Castro, at the helm, evacuated 300,000 people from eastern provinces where the storm was expected to hit the Sierra Maestra mountains later Monday.

The Miami-based hurricane center said in its 5 a.m. (0900 GMT) advisory that Ernesto was getting better organized as it approached southeastern Cuba and that heavy rains, floods and mudslides were a significant threat for eastern Cuba and much of the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Forecasters said Ernesto, which had become the year's first hurricane early on Sunday when its top winds reached 75 mph (119 kph), would likely make landfall along the southeastern Cuban coast later on Monday morning and possibly emerge off Cuba's north coast later on Monday night or Tuesday morning. Continued...

Ernesto Weakens, Florida Declares Emergency


1010WINS

LES CAYES, Haiti (1010 WINS) -- Hurricane Ernesto weakened to tropical storm force on Sunday as it lashed Haiti's southern coast with heavy rain, flooding homes and threatening deadly mud slides in the impoverished country as the storm steamed toward Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Anti-Cuba Travel Ban Protest in Miami

Washington, Aug 27 (Prensa Latina) Dozens of Cubans rallied outside the office of Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla) to protest his support to the ban on travels to Cuba.

With banners that read "Family is Sacred" the group lashed at the ill-famed anti-Cuba hardliner support of the Bush Administration travel ban and his ties with Miami's Cuban Mafia.

Nuevo Herald daily mentions as example Cuban Marta Berros, impeded to visit a ailing brother because she went to the Island in 2004 and Bush spaced out visits to 15 days every three years.

Nereida Rodriguez, of Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, termed the law absurd and arbitrary, that estranges aunts, uncles, cousins and nephews from family members.

Cuba Beats Panama in Baseball Qualifier

Havana, Aug 27 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban nine dawned Sunday to achieve a 7-6 victory over Panama in a game belonging to pool B of the Olympic Qualifier Baseball Tournament of the Americas.

With the game tied two-two, in the lower part of the eighth inning, Cuban right fielder Alexei Ramirez belted a home run to Panamanian relief pitcher Lenin Picota.

Right pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo dominated the six batters in the last two innings to obtain the win.

Cuba is undefeated in two games played while Panama scored 1-1.

--------------------------------------------

JG: Pedro Luis is the Cuban version of "Big Papi." He is superb!

Southern Methodist University business students to visit Cuba

www.news8austin.com

Sunday August 27 2006

By: Associated Press

DALLAS -- Some MBA students from Southern Methodist University are heading for Cuba at a time of renewed interest in the politics and business of the island.

Longtime leader Fidel Castro had emergency intestinal surgery last month and temporarily turned over power to his brother, Raul.

The younger Castro has shown interest in greater flexibility of the state-controlled economy in the communist country.

The SMU group of 85 students and administrators is expected to meet with businesses leaders and visit a tourist resort and American mission during the four-day trip.

They'll attend a presentation on Cuba's public health system, economy, culture and business.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rigoberta Menchu against U.S. Bully

Guatemala, Aug 26 (Prensa Latina) Peace Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu Saturday described as abusive, abominable and reprehensible the fact that the US takes advantage of the current sickness suffered by the Cuban President Fidel Castro to increase its aggressive anti-Cuban plans.

"That is the very first reason why I signed the intellectuals declaration in defense of Cuba s sovereignty," said the outstanding social fighter to Prensa Latina.

In second place, she asserted, it is abominable that any government attribute itself the right to ride roughshod over people's opinions, interests and self determination.

Menchu referred to her love for the Cuban people and their spirit of resistance as the third motive encouraging her to join the signatory intellectuals.

"Cuba is an example of dignity and Latin American dignity is also brought to mind when it comes to crazy presidents like Bush trying to impose their policies," she stressed.

Socialist candidates in Massachusetts: U.S. hands off Cuba!

The Militant

Vol. 70/No. 33, September 4, 2006

BY TED LEONARD

BOSTON—“Washington doesn’t like the Cuban Revolution because it shows you can organize society in a different way — in a way where the interests of workers and farmers, the vast majority, come first,” said Laura Garza, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in Massachusetts’ 8th District. She was speaking here August 15 during a half-hour interview on a local Spanish-language cable television station.

“We oppose the U.S. government’s embargo of Cuba and its travel restrictions,” she said. “Young people and others should be able to go to Cuba to see it for themselves.”

Garza, a garment worker and member of UNITE HERE Local 187, filed petitions August 17 with the Secretary of State’s Election Division to gain ballot status in the November elections. Her campaign supporters turned over 4,300 signatures on nominating petitions. Of these, 2,253 — more than the requirement of 2,000 — had been certified as valid by city clerk offices in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Chelsea, which make up the congressional district. The clerk of the state’s Election Division told Garza she would appear on the ballot in November. Challenges to the petitions can be made up until September 1.

The Socialist Workers candidate for governor, John Hawkins, a meat cutter and longtime fighter for Black rights, is running a write-in campaign.

In a news release issued August 15, Garza said, “I am running to support workers’ struggles to organize trade unions and to use and extend union power to defend working people against the bosses’ assaults. I support legislation to legalize all immigrants now. I have joined the mobilizations to demand legalization and will continue to help mobilize in support of that fight.”

The SWP candidates and their supporters have been busy building the September 7 March on Washington for immigrant rights and the August 24-27 tour of Jesse Díaz in Boston. Díaz is a co-founder of the Los Angeles March 25th Coalition, one of the organizations that not only helped mobilize hundreds of thousands in Los Angeles for immigrant rights but joined in calling the nationwide May 1 strike.

At a recent meeting here of groups building the September 7 march in Washington, organizers announced that eight buses have been reserved in the Boston area and tickets are available for $25.

On August 19 the Socialists Workers campaign organized a program featuring the two Massachusetts socialist candidates and Róger Calero, the SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in New York. It was entitled, “Legalize all immigrants! Build and strengthen our unions! Oppose Washington’s war drive!” Participants contributed more than $700 to the SWP campaign.

Debuta Cuba con rotunda victoria ante Colombia


Mayeta es recibido por sus compañeros. Foto: Alex Castro

Juventud Rebelde

Preolímpico de Béisbol de América

El equipo cubano propinó a su rival nocao de 14 carreras por cero. Adiel Palma se mostró indescifrable. Alexander Mayeta conectó dos jonrones

Por: Raúl Arce

Correo: raul_arce@jrebelde.cip.cu

26 de agosto de 2006 02:54:42 GMT

Adiel Palma lanzó una vez más pelotas indescifrables y Cuba debutó con rotunda victoria ante Colombia, un nocao de 14 carreras por cero, en la inauguración del III Torneo Preolímpico de Béisbol de América. Aunque la lluvia se enseñoreó inmisericorde sobre el estadio Latinoamericano, el celo de los trabajadores allí logró hacer fiable el terreno, y el desfile de los 12 equipos participantes —la ceremonia cultural de apertura debió ser reducida— comenzó a las 9:20 de la noche. El juramento atlético, a cargo de Carlos Tabares; el de los árbitros, por cuenta de Luis Felipe Casañas, y la apertura oficial, en la voz de Tom Peng, de Taipei de China (presidente interino de IBAF, Asociación Internacional de Béisbol) fueron etapas indispensables del protocolo. Presidían además la velada, José Ramón Fernández, titular del Comité Olímpico Cubano, y otros altos cargos de IBAF. Los campeones de la Olimpiada alinearon con Paret (ss), Michel (3b), Yulieski (2b), Mayeta (1b), Cepeda (lf), Urrutia (bd), Pestano (c), Alexei (rf) y Duvergel (cf)

¡DOS MAYETAZOS!

Cuba tomó inmediata ventaja ante John Caballero, un derecho que le sirvió cuatro bolas malas a Paret, permitió el primero de los tres indiscutibles de Michel Enríquez, y tiró un lanzamiento descontrolado, para inaugurar el marcador; Alexander Mayeta pegó entonces un jonrón por el ala derecha, de línea. Después siguió la fiesta —tres colombianos desfilaron como relevistas—, y Mayeta agregó no solo un indiscutible, sino también otro batazo de cuatro esquinas, por el medio del campo, con el cual produjo cuatro rayitas y completó la media docena. Jonder Martínez trabajó la séptima entrada, en tanto Rudy —dio un vuelacercas— alineó al final como torpedero, Eriel como receptor. Hoy los hombres de Rey Vicente Anglada toman descanso, y mañana se las verán con Panamá, a las dos de la tarde en el más añejo de nuestros estadios. Totales: COL (0-3-4), CUB (14-11-0). Ganó: Adiel Palma. Perdió: John Caballero. HR: Alexander Mayeta (2) y Rudy Reyes. El programa de este sábado anuncia los desafíos Nicaragua-Ecuador (10:00 a.m.) y Brasil-México (2:00 p.m.) en el Santiago «Changa» Mederos. En el Nelson Fernández se medirán Puerto Rico-Venezuela; en el Latinoamericano lo harán Panamá-República Dominicana (2:00 p.m.) y Estados Unidos-Canadá (8:00 p.m.)

PEQUEÑINES AL DIAMANTE

La selección cubana de béisbol infantil, categoría 9-10 años participará en el llamado Mundialito de Las Américas, con sede del 1ro. al 11 de septiembre próximo en el estado de Sucre, República Bolivariana de Venezuela, reporta el semanario Jit

EQUIPO CUBA 9-10 AÑOS

Receptores: Fabián Peña (CHA) y Frank Domínguez (VCL); Jugadores de cuadro: Jossuan Viera (CHA), Reynaldo Gutiérrez (CHA), Yordi Roselló (CHA), Alejandro J. Estrada (VCL) y Mario L. Rodríguez (SSP); Jardineros: Víctor Víctor Mesa (VCL), Ronald Bolaños (HAB), Marvin Martin (VCL), Marlon Cairo (CHA), Adrián Vega (GRA); Lanzadores: Roberto Mata (VCL), Andy Sánchez (CHA), Yervel Campiz (MTZ), Alexander Roque (HAB), Daniel Yanez (CHA) y Raimel Pérez (HAB).

Friday, August 25, 2006

Open letter to Señorita Condoleezza Rice

Progreso Weekly

August 7, 2006 A.D.

U.S. Secretary of State

Washington, D.C., USA

Honorable Señorita Rice:

My courteous greetings to you.

I just read your plea to us Cubans who live in the Republic of Cuba that we not abandon the Island and take ourselves to the United States, according to what the Associated Press has published, due to a supposed uncertainty among Cubans because of the illness of President Fidel Castro.

I also have read an untruth on the part of your government, made public outside President Bush's ranch in Texas by spokesperson Tony Snow, saying that the United States does not have plans to invade Cuba.

Señorita Secretary, with regard to these two statements, permit me, with all due respect, to make two things known to you:

1) The overwhelming majority of the Cuban people – I am not exaggerating if I say 97% of them: 10,767,000 Cuban men and women – have no intention to leave Cuba, and we are conscious that we live in the midst of this revolutionary project of liberty, independence, and socialist democracy, which we are not going to renounce. We do not deny that the remaining 3% -- 333,000 citizens – could wish to leave Cuba, due to 333,000 different reasons. If you wish, you could double that number and say that there are 666,000; which wouldn't make any difference. At the same time, it is not we Cubans who have encouraged abandoning the Island in order to create difficulties for anyone, but rather, on the contrary, it is the United States which for decades, has stimulated this with its migratory policies, which favor Cubans for political reasons while discriminating against other nationalities.

I also want to make known to you that this Cuban who is writing to you, who lives on this Island, could have "various reasons" to leave the country and go live in your supposed paradise, because, after 40 years of working as a priest in the Episcopal Church of Cuba and receiving my retirement benefits from the Church Pension Fund in New York, your government has ordered that the payment of my retirement benefits be blockaded, for the sole reason that I live in Cuba, and is holding them in my name in a blocked bank account in New York, against every legal principle which states that retirement funds cannot be embargoed. But rather than thinking that this would be a reason to go live in the paradise of your country, among many other reasons this is one more reason to believe neither in your paradise nor in your democracy.

2) At the same time, Mr Tony Snow can save himself his absurd declarations made outside the Presidential ranch in Texas, to the effect that the United States does not have plans to invade Cuba, because we are a country that, absolutely, does not believe in the veracity of any declarations made by your Government, so that he himself should not believe what he is saying, and he should know that yes, we are preparing ourselves for "all options" from the United States. The only thing that Mr. Snow wasn't wrong about was in affirming that "Cubans will determine their own destiny" – but not in the way that he thinks.

Sincerely,

Pablo O. Marichal

Presbyter of the Episcopal Church of Cuba

Episcopal Church of Cuba

Anglican Diocese

Parish of the Faithful to Jesus

Pueblo Nuevo, Matanzas, Cuba

Canon Pablo O. Marichal, MT, Rector